British Columbia Showcases Diverse First Nations Experiences

Posted Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Northern British Columbia, Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Coast & Mountains, Vancouver, Indigenous People, Accommodations, Culture & Entertainment, Food & Wine, Outdoor Adventure / Ecotourism, Touring & Attractions

BC is home to Canada’s most diverse composition of First Nations bands, languages and cultures — not to mention some of the country’s most intriguing Aboriginal-inspired experiences and adventures.

Vancouver Island’s Sea Wolf Adventures delves into local First Nations history and its deep connection to wildlife. Enthusiasts can, for example, view the Kwakwaka’wakw masks and artifacts at the U’mista Cultural Centre in the village of Alert Bay, along the Island’s northern coast, and learn more about the ancestral potlatch system that is once again becoming a way of life. Or they can opt for day-long excursions through the Broughton Archipelago to X̱a̱ḵwika̱n (Thompson Sound) in the Great Bear Rainforest, for an insider’s look at resident grizzlies as they feast on wild salmon.

On the mainland, authentic explorers can sample the bounty of the land and the ocean at Salmon n' Bannock, a popular Vancouver bistro that showcases authentic Aboriginal cuisine. Certified organic game and wild fish give rise to a modern menu inspired by First Nations traditions; the fresh-daily bannock is a must. Here, guests can book the restaurant’s feast menu, a gathering that gives thanks for good food and equally nourishing company.

Scenic canoe paddles with Takaya Tours prove an ideal way to explore Indian Arm and the Burrard Inlet, traditional Tsleil-Waututh First Nation territory in North Vancouver. During these immersive journeys in eight-metre (25-foot) traditional ocean-going canoes, guides share the history of the land’s early inhabitants, together with legends, songs and stories linked to its people.     

Further northwest, deep in the province’s Great Bear Rainforest, adventurers can explore a natural habitat that is home to grizzlies, eagles and the elusive Kermode, or Spirit, bear, a rare subspecies of black bear known for its distinctive white fur. Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu provides home base in one of the most pristine wilderness environments on earth, launching daily wildlife viewing excursions within traditional Kitasoo/Xai'xais territory — on-the-boat exploration of the temperate rainforest and the ecological wonders of Princess Royal Island, home to the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy.

In the Nass Valley, northeast of Terrace, the Nisga’a Museum tells the story of the area’s indigenous people, showcasing a cultural bounty that ranks as one of the preeminent collections of Northwest Coast Aboriginal art; the Ancestors’ Collection, in particular, contains more than 300 powerful Nisga’a cultural treasures. Beyond the museum, the surrounding 18,000-hectare (44,479-acre) Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park) holds its own sway, thanks to a volcanic eruption more than 250 years ago that has left the landscape eerily bare, streaked in grey and black lava, and enveloped by thick green moss and other vegetation.

Home to a storied First Nations history, Haida Gwaii, further west, is one of the most remote archipelagos in Canada, and fertile waters for fans of the rod and reel. Here, all five of the province’s salmon species (chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, chum), alongside halibut, lingcod and snapper, migrate past this region’s fishing grounds, providing anglers ample opportunities to land the big one. It’s a tall task best achieved with the pros from West Coast Resorts, two Haida-owned operations revered for their legendary hospitality.

In BC’s Okanagan, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre celebrates the landscape and culture of Canada’s only desert. This state-of-the-art interpretive centre, sensitively constructed into the hillside northeast of Osoyoos, showcases indoor and outdoor exhibit galleries, hands-on displays, education stations and two multi-media theatre experiences. Self-guided interpretive trail walks include stories and legends of Sen’klip (Coyote), a glimpse into a traditional pit house and sweat lodge, and camera-worthy views of the antelope-brush desert environment.   

Set between the Purcell and Rocky mountains, the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre at St. Eugene Resort, near Cranbrook, exhibits traditional stone, bead, hide, wood and cloth work of the local Aboriginal people. The Ktunaxa First Nation-owned centre and hotel, with its western-themed casino, are situated in the Kootenay Rockies; the centre is a former residential school. Here, visitors can peruse scale models of traditional teepees and a sturgeon-nosed canoe, the latter highlighting the resourcefulness and skill of the Ktunaxas’ famed canoe-makers.   


For more on BC’s rich Aboriginal experiences, visit

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